Heard on the Hill: Pity the Fool

Posted June 18, 2008 at 6:35pm

Interns answering phones for Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) have the lawmaker’s pecking order laid out for them: First come lobbyists, then other Members of Congress and government officials, then constituents.

[IMGCAP(1)]That’s according to an apparently informal “Intern’s Survival Guide” making the rounds on Wednesday after the budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense posted the memo on its Web site.

The guide lists an “A Team” of lobbyists designated for preferential treatment. Leading the roster is Rick Alcalde, who attended a 2005 fundraiser for Young featuring Daniel Aronoff, a client and developer seeking the now-infamous earmark for Coconut Road in Florida. Young is under investigation for earmarking $10 million for the road far from his home state.

Others on that list include Randy DeLay, the brother of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Rep. turned appropriations lobbyist Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) and several former staffers.

“These people can talk to whomever they want, normally Mike or Sara,” the guide states, in an apparent reference to Chief of Staff Mike Anderson and then-Executive Assistant Sara Parsons.

Taxpayers for Common Sense says it got the memo from someone who applied for an internship in Young’s office last spring, who was handed it by Anderson as part of a package of materials on the office.

Young’s office didn’t dispute the authenticity of the memo but called it “incredibly outdated” and said it was “pieced together by several former interns and not by staff.”

“This ‘guide’ in no way reflects the official policies of Rep. Young’s office,” Young spokeswoman Meredith Kenny said in a statement.

The memo offers plenty of seemingly tongue-in-cheek advice for navigating life in an office with seemingly two bosses: the gruff Young and his wife, Lula.

Among the tips for dealing with “Mrs. Y,” the memo offers: “Don’t stand in her way — don’t stand anywhere I would suggest. Sit down or hide in the broom cupboard.”

As for “The Boss,” the memo admonishes he “does not like facial piercings.” “Keep your hands out of your pockets,” it says. “Expects you to open doors for him (particularly tricky when he does not specify where he is going, make a guess). Should always be referred to as ‘The Congressman’ or ‘the Chairman.’ Leaves rooms at speed the moment he is done, try to keep up.”

Steve Ellis, of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said besides being funny, the guide paints a portrait of an office where a small cadre of lobbyists are offered “exalted status.”

“The real kicker is the ‘A Team,’” he said. “They’re all lobbyists, and these are the people who don’t pass go. They’re in the fast lane to make sure they get direct access.”

Making the Band. Rep. Bill Sali might only be in his first term in Congress, but he’s already managed to get into one of the most exclusive institutions on Capitol Hill. No, not the Appropriations Committee, but something way cooler: the all-Member rock ‘n’ roll band the Second Amendments.

The Idaho Republican is taking over on drums for Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.), who is retiring to run for Missouri governor, Sali spokesman Wayne Hoffman confirmed to HOH on Wednesday. It’s a good fit for the group, since Sali spent his younger days working as a professional musician.

“That’s how he’s earned a living, by virtue of playing,” Hoffman said.

Sali gave up his musical ambitions to work in law and then in the state Legislature, but his musical roots remain. He hopes to bring more Motown and classic rock tunes to the Second Amendments’ set list, adding to a repertoire that already includes plenty of rock and country hits.

And HOH also hears that Rep. John Hall (D-N.Y.), who helped form the 1970s rock band Orleans, could soon be stepping up to sing vocals for the group. Unfortunately, a Hall spokeswoman did not get back to HOH by press time to confirm.

Other members of the Second Amendments include Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) on vocals and guitar, Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) on lead guitar, Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) on bass and Jon Porter (R-Nev.) on keyboards.

Too Much Monkey Business. Here’s a pop quiz, inspired by Tuesday’s debate on the House floor: Are you more likely to be a) bitten by a monkey or b) pay a lot for gas?

Lawmakers concluded that yes, Americans are more likely to pay through their noses at the pump than get chewed on by a primate. But they passed a bill anyway that would ban interstate monkey commerce for fear that the sharp-toothed simians would take a chunk out of innocent Americans or spread diseases.

HOH will leave the merits of the bill alone, and instead focus on the bizarre debate it engendered, as Republicans tried to use the floor time to contrast the pressing need to lower energy costs with the relatively distant threat of biting monkeys.

“Don’t be real alarmed that your Congress has brought this front and center, the first bill on the House today,” Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) warmed up. “You can take comfort because only one in 38 million — that’s your chances of getting bit by a monkey today.”

He continued: “We need to be concentrating on the pain that you’re feeling — not the pain of a monkey bite, but the pain at the gas pump you’re feeling.”

That change of subject and downplaying of the dangers of monkey bites didn’t sit well with Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), one of the monkey bill’s sponsors. “People indeed are being bit by monkeys,” she insisted, outlining a handful of gruesome monkey-biting incidents, whose victims included a 3-year-old boy (a pet lemur did it), a clerk at a convenience store (the work of a customer’s pet monkey) and another child (blame the pet capuchin).

But she acknowledged the very real dangers of rising gas prices.

“They are also being bit at the gas pumps,” Bordallo allowed.

Ouch!

Not-So-Smarty Pants. Sen. Chuck Hagel is one of those guys who likes to look at the big picture. The Nebraska Republican even wrote a book, “America: Our Next Chapter,” analyzing how the country should handle big, important stuff such as relations with Iran, the faltering economy and even the political party system.

But when Hagel appeared at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Wednesday he admitted that, when it comes down to it, he really doesn’t know all that much.

“I’m an expert on nothing. I’m a Senator,” Hagel joked, later adding, “What we don’t know, we just make up … maybe just blame it on our staff.”

Kidding aside, Hagel spent most of the hour or so sharing his thoughts on how the next president should shape American foreign policy and why the parties need to work together to fix the economy.

And Hagel, who is retiring from Congress at the end of his term, also talked about how he happened to join CSIS’ Commission on Smart Power. The commission, headed by scholar Joseph Nye and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, seeks to develop a long-term foreign policy vision for the United States.

“Armitage threatened to body slam me, or bench press me, if I didn’t do it,” Hagel recalled. “I think I was actually too light for him to bench press me.”

Write Your Own Joke. Usually, HOH is ready with a joke, no matter how cheap or puerile. But every now and then, something comes to our attention for which words escape us.

So we leave this one without comment.

A spokesman for Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) sent an e-mail out Wednesday afternoon, alerting people about his appearance later that night on Laura Ingraham’s new Fox show. The e-mail’s unfortunate subject line: “Pence in Ingraham tonight.”

Briefly Quoted. “My Missouri constituents say, ‘This Bud’s not for you.’”

— Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), during a meeting with Carlos Brito, the chairman of InBev, the company trying to take over St. Louis’ Anheuser-Busch.

Tory Newmyer contributed to this report.

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